Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 38 minutes
MPAA Rating: NC-17 for some Graphic Sexual Content
Directed by: Kirby Dick
Written by: Kirby Dick, Eddie Schmidt & Matt Patterson
Starring: Kirby Dick, Becky Altringer, Darren Aronofsky, Jamie Babbit, Maria Bello, Atom Egoyan, Mary Harron, Wayne Kramer, Kimberly Peirce, Kevin Smith, Matt Stone, Michael Tucker & John Waters
My hatred for the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) burns with the white-hot rage of a thousand suns and I respect nearly everyone who stands up to them. You may know of the group as they are responsible for dictating which films are appropriate for what age group through a backwards system. In 2005, documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick put together a highly ambitious project that would shed light on the reclusive movie ratings board. THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED thoroughly examines the organization that determines which movies are G, PG, PG-13, R or NC-17 and points out the hypocrisy in this deeply flawed system.
Fed up with the silly actions and illogical secretive nature of the MPAA, filmmaker Kirby Dick recruits a private investigator to find out the identities of the ratings board members. While Kirby’s investigation intensifies, we are shown interviews from various filmmakers, critics, and former MPAA raters about the double-standard of sex being more taboo than bloody violence. There’s also a special examination spent on the dreaded NC-17 rating (formerly X) that prevents a film from going into nationwide theatrical release at any of the mainstream theaters. A special focus is on specific directors speaking up about their experiences with receiving an NC-17 and going through complex appeals process.
The way in which Kirby Dick goes about proving valid points against the MPAA are extreme to say the least. He straight-up hires a private eye complete with hidden cameras and stake-outs. Though it’s very entertaining to watch, one could argue that the ethics behind this approach are a bit questionable. I do agree that names of the MPAA board members need to be made public, but could draw the line at flaunting their personal information (revealing the ages of the children and digging through their trash). At times, it seems like Kirby is going too far. I know that some may disagree, but he could have condensed this information down into a small piece near the conclusion.
As far as Kirby does go, the big complaint I have regarding THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is that it offers brief throwaway glimpses of other problems with the MPAA (including ridiculously strict piracy laws and possible propaganda). These are coincidentally both brought to light to in two separate clips of one interview with a guy who seems to be straying off topic onto completely different things. Either Kirby might have devoted a more time to these topics or he could have cut these pieces out entirely because they seem out-of-place.
Interviews with filmmakers and former MPAA board members more than make up for this documentary’s faults. These snippets are far more revealing and interesting than anything that Kirby or the private investigators offer. Most hilarious are Matt Stone’s experiences about the puppet sex scene in TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE and John Water’s possible reasons for A DIRTY SHAME receiving an NC-17. Filmmakers shed light on the MPAA’s prejudice towards pubic hair, gay sex, or a film’s overall tone being “too extreme” for an R rating, but other potentially harmful stuff skates by with a PG-13.
There are annoyances in Kirby Dick and the private investigators going too far and unrelated interview clips, but this is a very well-executed and important documentary nonetheless. THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is highly recommended for those who want to know more about the mysterious all-powerful MPAA and essential viewing for those who blindly judge movies simply by their ratings. I know some people who don’t bother watching an R-rated movie (let alone one with an NC-17) based completely on the MPAA’s decision to dictate what’s appropriate for certain ages. If you want to be informed about double-standards of a broken system that’s not likely to change any time soon, then this is a must-see. In spite of a few faults, THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED is one of the most important documentaries about filmmaking ever made.